Commonwealth agencies to be cut by Abbott Government
- News Limited Network
- September 22, 2013
AGENCIES responsible for tackling obesity, city planning and security advice on asylum seekers are to be slashed as Tony Abbott takes the axe to Labor’s reform agenda.
Less than a week after taking office, the Coalition Government has scrapped plans to build a multimillion-dollar embassy in Africa, and will also wipe $100 million off research funding.
The Prime Minister has also pulled the pin on a key Kevin Rudd initiative – Community Cabinet – as he instructs his new ministry team to put the broom through the bureaucracy.
Key elements of Labor’s reform agenda are being dismantled.
The Major Cities Unit – which provided advice on developing Australia’s 18 biggest cities – and the Social Inclusion Unit in Mr Abbott’s own Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet will be dismantled.
The Coalition will also begin unwinding key “nanny state” agencies such as the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, established to lead the national fight against obesity, alcohol abuse and tobacco use.
Health Minister Peter Dutton has been critical of ANPHA’s decision to spend $500,000 on a study into a potential “fat tax” despite neither side of politics supporting such a move.
Senior ministers are now searching for big savings from departments with a raft of back office operations and smaller agencies on the chopping block.
“It’s out of control,” one senior minister said, of the rapid growth in Commonwealth agencies.
Even the Australian Institute of Criminology, established by Gough Whitlam in 1973, is under review and could be merged with a major university. in a bid to save millions of taxpayer dollars.
Two major health agencies – the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the year-old National Health Performance Authority – are under review and could have their combined budgets – of around $40 million a year – slashed.
One micro agency likely to be scrapped is the Independent Reviewer of Adverse Security Assessments.
It was established in 2012 last year and reviews assessments by ASIO into people in detention.
But with a $1 million a year price tag, the Government will likely scrap the organisation.
The future is also uncertain for key agencies such as the Human Rights Commission.
Some senior Coalition figures are keen to scrap the Commission altogether – but that would provoke a serious political brawl that Mr Abbott is not keen to have.
Attorney-General George Brandis has signalled his intention to challenge what he sees as a Left-controlled human rights agenda, and the role of issue-specific commissioners – such as Disability – could be broadened as part of an overhaul of the HRC.
The future of the national Children’s Commissioner – announced by former PM Julia Gillard in February – is also in doubt. Its role could be radically reshaped to focus on cyber bullying.
Around $100 million will be cut from Australian Research Council grants with the Government determined to wipe out costly academic indulgences., such as a $443,000 study into the “God of Hegel’s Post-Kantian idealism”.
Senior Coalition figures say the Australian Institute of Criminology will be reviewed to see whether it should remain a stand-alone agency.
The Institute produces academic-style research papers and there is a view that its operations should be taken over by a big university, saving taxpayers a considerable sum of money.
Climate Change Minister Greg Hunt has already taken the knife to key agencies, including the Climate Commission.
And another of Kevin Rudd’s pet initiatives, Community Cabinet, will be scrapped with a saving of around $13 million over the four year forward estimates.
Other key Rudd reforms – including the expensive bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council – are being wound back with a planned new Australian embassy in Senegal to be abandoned.
Scrapping ANPHA will leave the Government open to criticism that it’s not taking seriously a raft of key health challenges – including the growing obesity challenge and tobacco and alcohol control.
But Mr Dutton is determined to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in bureaucratic expenses and is reviewing the ongoing role of the AIHW – which provides a national service on health and welfare statistics.
The National Health Performance Authority – established in 2011 to provide uniform statistics on the performance of hospitals and other health facilities – could also be absorbed back into the health department.